Information about Cranberries plus Cranberry Recipes
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belong to the family Ericaceae (Heather) which includes other plants such
as blueberries, huckleberries and gooseberries. Although they can be found
growing wild in many parts of the northern hemisphere, it is the cultivated
large-berried variety, vaccinium macrocarpon which is the most widely eaten.
Cranberry Origin and History
word cranberry derives from the word craneberry, because when the flowers dip
down they resemble the head of a crane and also the fact that cranes were seen
eating the berries which grew in bogs where they nest. The botanical name
vaccinium comes from the Latin vacca, meaning cow because cows seem to be
fond of them. They are also known as Bearberries because bears like to eat them.
well known to American Indians long before Europeans arrived and were considered
a symbol of peace, used as food, medicine and even a dye. These peoples
already knew about the natural preservative power (benzoic acid) in the berries
and used to mix them into pemmican, a sort of cake made with dried meat which
was pounded into a paste and mixed with animal fat and grain to extend its
1820’s commercial cultivation was well under way in America and the fruit were
being exported to Europe however it wasn’t until 1864 when General Ulysses S.
Grant apparently ordered cranberry sauce to be given to the Union troops during
the siege of Petersburg that the serving of Cranberries at festive times in the
US became a well entrenched tradition. Cranberry sauce was first commercially
tinned in 1912 in America.
Cultivation and Growing Cranberries
Cranberry plant is an evergreen groundcover plant which spreads via runners
(rhizomes). In the wild they look more like a small shrub, however when
commercially cultivated, they are grown as low trailing vines which eventually
create densely packed beds. The flowers form on the short, upright shoots which
bloom from May to June with the fruit ripening in late September to early
common belief, the beds are kept dry until harvest time at which point they are
flooded with water to a knee-deep level. Fresh whole berries are sometimes
hand-picked which makes them more expensive however much of the crop is now
harvested by machine..
travel through the bog shaking the berries off the vines which are then skimmed
off. The berries are bounced down a stair-stepped processor to separate out the
old berries from the fresh.
Buying and Storing Cranberries
cranberries are firm and should bounce if dropped giving rise to the nickname “bounceberries”.
They should be shiny and plump although they can range in colour from bright
light red to dark red. Shrivelled berries or those with brown spots should be
berries contain a natural preservative called benzoic acid they can stay fresh
for a relatively long time.